UK & World News
Red Alert For Airlines Over Iceland Volcano
Iceland has raised the aviation alert for its Bardarbunga volcano from orange to red because of fears an ash cloud could be blown into the sky.
Code red indicates that eruptions are happening or imminent that could disperse plumes of ash and dust into the paths of jet aircraft, threatening safe air travel.
One airline, Virgin Atlantic, has diverted a London Heathrow flight bound for San Francisco away from the area as a "precaution", while other airlines said they were watching the situation.
An eruption in 2010 of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul volcano produced an ash cloud that caused aviation chaos, with more than 100,000 international flights cancelled.
However, aviation regulators have since changed policies for flying through ash, so a new eruption would be unlikely to cause the same level of disruption.
Thousands of minor earthquakes deep beneath the Vatnajokull glacier over the past week have rattled Bardarbunga, causing authorities to evacuate several hundred people from an area north of the glacier.
Icelandic Met Office official Theodor Hervasson said: "There is an ongoing eruption beneath the glacial surface, probably a small eruption which has not been able to melt the ice cap."
Bjorn Malmquist, from the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, said: "It's too early to say if flights will be disrupted.
"As long as there is water and magma interaction there will be a lot of ash, and explosions in the eruption itself, but its probably not going to be of the same kind in 2010. This will probably be more a fissure eruption, a sub-glacial eruption."
A spokeswoman for NATS, the UK's air traffic control organisation, said: "We are monitoring the situation and working in close collaboration with the Met Office, Department for Transport and our safety regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority."
Airlines including Easyjet and Flybe said there had been no changes to flight schedules.
Britain's Met Office said: "We are in close contact with the Icelandic Met Office, but currently they tell us that the eruptions are sub-glacial, so no ash has made it to the surface.
"If ash does make it to the surface, we will run our model which will indicate where any ash would go, and we will inform the CAA and Nats. They will then make the decision on how that will affect any air flights."
Scientists were planning to fly over the Vatnajokull glacier on Saturday to look for any changes to its surface.